Enabling community-led solutions to food insecurity in Guelph and Wellington County
Our Food Future Co-Lab funds local food relief projects
Guelph, Ont., December 20, 2021 – Seven community programs aimed at reducing the impacts of food insecurity will share $100,000 from Guelph-Wellington’s Our Food Future initiative.
Funded programs range from expanding community markets that sell fresh food on a sliding scale to making farmland and commercial kitchen space available to support local food initiatives.
The funding is the result of a unique collaborative Co-Lab Action and Funding Process facilitated by 10C and Toward Common Ground. The funding process involved community food relief organizations early with a goal to co-create solutions to help address food insecurity. Rather than applying for a particular funding amount, community groups brought ideas forward to state their intention to take part in the Co-Lab process, explored and built on the ideas, and decided as a group how best to allocate the available funding. Because applicants didn’t need to be incorporated to get involved, as might be necessary for other funding programs, the approach opened the door to a wider range of participants.
“It was a terrific process. A lot of eyes were opened that seven different groups could get together and communicate freely,” says Barb McPhee, manager of North End Harvest Market. “In the end, resources were not evenly split: we allocated the funds to what organizations needed. We also weaved in steps towards Indigenous poverty relief, something we all agreed was essential.”
The announcement comes on the heels of a research report issued by Our Food Future, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health and Toward Common Ground which explored experiences of food insecurity and food access during the COVID-19 pandemic. Surveys were conducted in late 2020 with 600 residents and 22 local organizations that provide services to people experiencing food insecurity. According to the report, the pandemic led some residents to experience food insecurity for the first time. Reasons included job or income loss and increasing food prices. Forty-two per cent of organizations that provided emergency food during the pandemic saw an increase in demand, both from new clients and increased need from existing clients.
In Wellington County, 9.8 per cent of residents (1 in 10) reported living in a food insecure household. In Guelph, 13.8 per cent of residents (1 in 7) reported the same. Of the residents who reported living in a food insecure household, 16.5 per cent (1 in 6) were severely food insecure, which represents two per cent of the total population of Guelph and Wellington County. Food insecurity—not having enough money to buy food—was measured based on seven experiences ranging from worrying food would run out before there was money to buy more, to going hungry because there was not enough money to buy food. One or more experiences represented living in a food insecure household; five or more experiences represented living in a severely food insecure household.
Projects supported by the Co-Lab Action and Funding Process are:
- Sustain and Grow Community Markets to sustain free access to fresh produce at the North End Harvest Market and the Silvercreek Market, and fund Advance Your Voice training, helping people with lived experience of poverty to grow their leadership in community food access.
- The Two Rivers Neighbourhood Group to offer a community-based market that sells affordable year-round fresh local food.
- The Hub and Spoke Collaborative Pilot Project to test shifting Guelph Food Bank (GFB) away from direct-to-client food support and member agency excess distribution program to a model where GFB will be a distribution hub for smaller neighborhood-based food security programs.
- The HOPE House—Holding Spaces and Place project to offer arable land, space and kitchen space to help activate other projects. (This project chose not to receive funding, but rather offered gifts to be shared across the other projects.)
- Chalmers Community Services Centre to lead the Cultural Meals Social Enterprise project. This project will create opportunities for immigrant women to make meal kits with food from different cultures to be made available for sale.
- Parkwood Gardens Curated Meals project to engage in a partnership with HOPE House to produce weekly ready-made free meals for families.
- The Anishinaabe Ways of Living, Being and Doing project to bring together people from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities and allies to share ideas. This Indigenous-led initiative weaves through every Co-Lab challenge project, informing and supporting all the others.
“This is a stellar example of taking a new approach to funding essential social needs. If we are to meet our ambitious goal to increase our community’s access to affordable and nutritious food by 50 per cent by 2025, we need this kind of collaboration and shared decision-making.”
Barbara Swartzentruber, executive director, Smart Cities Office
“The Co-Lab process helped these groups lead with empathy and their lived experience, share knowledge and strengthen each other’s ideas by working together to tackle problems facing our communities. It was an inclusive and highly effective approach to make the most of available funding.”
Julia Grady, executive director, 10C and a co-leader of the Co-Lab initiative
“While the barriers to affordable, nutritious food are perceived differently between people who are at increased risk of food insecurity and those who are not, both groups agreed that income-based solutions, such as guaranteed annual income and a living wage, would help to increase their access to food.”
Sarah Haanstra, Manager, Toward Common Ground, co-chair, Our Food Future Nutritious Foods Workstream
About Our Food Future
Inspired by the planet’s natural cycles, a circular food economy reimagines and regenerates the systems that feed us, eliminating waste, sharing economic prosperity, and nourishing our communities. In Guelph-Wellington, we are working to build Canada’s first tech-enabled circular food economy that will achieve a 50 per cent increase in access to affordable nutritious food, create 50 new circular economy businesses and collaborations, and a 50 per cent increase in circular economic benefit by unlocking the value of waste.
Our Food Future demonstrates one of the ways the City of Guelph and County of Wellington are contributing to a sustainable, creative and smart local economy that is connected to regional and global markets and supports shared prosperity for everyone.
Barbara Swartzentruber, Executive Director
Smart Cities Office, Office of the Chief Administrative Officer
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 3066
Julia Grady, Executive Director
10C Shared Space
Sarah Haanstra, Manager
Toward Common Ground